Training

Why we ACTUALLY Suck at Olympic Lifting Part 1 of 3


Written by

By Chad Wesley Smith

Below is a list of the US Medal Count in the major Olympic strength sports, with the exception of the shot put. Also listed are the world rankings for track and field events during the 2010 Outdoor Track & Field season.

Discus (4 of top 30 2010 Rankings)

Gold-1 Silver-2 Bronze-2

Hammer (2 of top 30)

Gold-0 Silver-1 Bronze-0

Javelin (0 of top 30)

Gold-0 Silver-0 Broze-1

Weightlifting

Gold-0 Silver-2 Bronze-1

The above figures certainly show that the US isn’t performing at the top levels of those events over the last 4 decades. There are a myriad of social, cultural and athletic reasons why this is happening, enough to fill a book. Below I will discuss some of the most important ones.

  1. Money Sports-Dwight Howard, World Discus Champion; Michael Vick, Olympic Gold Medalist in the Javelin; Patrick Willis, World leader in the hammer throw; James Harrison, World Record Holding Olympic weightlifter; if these athletes had been born in Europe or Asia, these titles wouldn’t be far fetched at all, instead though they are earning millions of dollars in American professional sports. America certainly loses its top potential throwers and lifters to big money sports like football and basketball. Some argue that the US has many more people though than some other countries who excel in these areas (Belarus, Estonia, Germany, Poland, Norway, Finland, etc) that we should still be able to dominate.
    In Europe, often times the best athletes aren't found on the basketball court or football field

    Quantity though is not what is needed to win medals, quality is. A country like Lithuania doesn’t need to have as many top athletes as the US, because they aren’t getting spread out between football, basketball, track and field and weightlifting, because you only need one Virgilijus Alekna (7 Olympic and World Championship medals over an 11 year span) to dominate an event. If the 6’8” 290 pound Alekna, who possesses a 7’3.5” wingspan, had been born in the US he certainly would have been groomed for NFL or NBA stardom. Conversely, if Lebron James had been raised in Estonia he would be setting new standards in the discus.

  2. Drugs-It is naïve to think that drug use doesn’t exist at the top levels of professional and Olympic sports, in America and elsewhere.  While I’ll wholeheartedly believe that there are upper level US athletes who are doping, though I don’t have evidence to back this up, the regulation of doping is still much more stringent here than it is elsewhere. Top level US throwers and lifters can be subjected to drug testing on a monthly, or more frequent basis. While these athletes in other countries often only face testing during their national championships and subsequent international competitions. This provides a window of time for athletes to use drugs that are longer acting/clearing and provide gains that are long term.

While the above reasons are large factors why the US doesn’t excel in these Olympic strength sports, the primary reasons lie in two very intertwined factors; training and youth development. In this article, I’m drawing parallels between Olympic weightlifting and the throwing events, not Olympic lifting and powerlifting because of their similarities in terms of speed and technical demands.  In Part II I will discuss the social reasons to why America does not perform as well in these events as other countries.

More articles

Why we ACTUALLY Suck at Olympic Lifting Part 3 of 3
Training

Why we ACTUALLY Suck at Olympic Lifting Part 3 of 3

There are many critics of the current US Olympic training model for Olympic lifting, some say that we spend too much time on the competition …

Why we ACTUALLY Suck at Olympic Lifting Part 2 of 3
Training

Why we ACTUALLY Suck at Olympic Lifting Part 2 of 3

Social reasons play a large role in the US’s lack of success in the Olympic strength sports, but in Part II of this article we …

Improving the Olympic Lifts for Non-Olympic Lifters
Training

Improving the Olympic Lifts for Non-Olympic Lifters

By Chad Wesley Smith There is constant debate about including the Olympic lifts in athlete’s programs, I’m not here to debate that topic, I have addressed …

JTS Classic: Maximal Strength Programming for Crossfit
Training

JTS Classic: Maximal Strength Programming for Crossfit

  A few weeks ago I attended a Crossfit Powerlifting Seminar at Crossfit 714 in Orange, CA as a guest presenter, where I helped out my friends Mark …

The Journey Back into CrossFit
Fitness

The Journey Back into CrossFit

CrossFit got me into the fitness/strength & conditioning world. I was introduced to it in the Marine Corps and loved it. Upon my EAS from …

Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now
Training

Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now

Don’t we all wish that we could go back in time and do some things differently? Take note of these lessons in training, business and …

Warm up for Improved Performance
Movement

Warm up for Improved Performance

The squat is regarded by most athletes as the most important lift. For Powerlifters it is their main competition lift, for weightlifters it is something …

Crossfit, Strength, Competing and Stuff that I Hate
Fitness

Crossfit, Strength, Competing and Stuff that I Hate

Recently, I have been mulling around the idea of opening up my gym during the non class times for an open gym membership. It would …